In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Last week we heard the question, “What must I DO to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25) To we which heard the response from our Lord in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) whose moral seems to be: everyone is your neighbour. (Luke 10:37) But that’s where people stop without realizing that that’s a recipe for disaster. For if everyone is your neighbour—which they are—what must you DO to inherit eternal life? Be neighbourly to EVERYONE. Love your neighbour as yourself—love EVERYONE as yourself. (Luke 10:27) But who can do that? NO ONE. Which is also why we heard St. Paul say in Galatians 3:21 last week that if a law was given which could give life—i.e., if there was any law that you could actually do and if you could do it it would give life—you’d be good. However, St. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells us that only if such a law had been given would salvation be by law. But since there is no such law which you CAN DO and get life; since no one born under the impact of sin can actually keep one iota, one jot, tittle, or even the tiniest particle of the Law in its fullness—which was the Lord’s point. The man who asked wanted to justify himself by the Law (Luke 10:29) had any such hope crushed. For salvation was not by the Law. Paul tells us that since Scripture imprisoned EVERYTHING under sin (Gal. 3:22-23) by both the letter of law, i.e., all the particulars of wha the law demands, and the spirit of law—which is love. Love has never finished until it lays itself down in sacrifice. (John 15:13; Eph. 5:25-29; 1 Cor. 13:1-8) Therefore the promise of salvation by faith is given to those who believe in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:22)
The man asked the wrong question: what must I DO to live? Nothing. You are half-dead in sin, like the man in the Gold Samaritan parable. (Luke 10:30) Dead men can’t do anything. Dead men are like Lazarus—they must receive the promised Word of Christ which gives life. (John 11:43-44) So that when Jesus calls you to live—just as He did to Lazarus when said, “Lazarus, come out,” then you can truly live in Him. Live in faith and have eternal life.
What must you do to inherit eternal life? Just lay there dead. And receive the blessed forgiveness of sins which raises you to the life of faith, to eternal life apart from your works.
However, something that many good Christians who cling to the blessed promise of justification by God Father on account of Jesus has done often forget is: while works do not save, saving faith is never alone. (James 2:14-16) Good works are evidence of saving faith, though they do not save.
Which brings us to today. Some lepers, some outcasts, are healed. (Lule 17:!2) Ten of them. One for each commandment. And while the lepers did nothing, except act on the faith given them by hearing the word about Jesus (Luke 17:13; Rom. 10:17) they had heard which told them this man could heal. So they came to Him. They asked for mercy. (Luke 17:13) The mercy of healing, which they received. To which Jesus said, “Go show selves to the priests.” (Luke 17:14) for it was only by declaration of the priests that you are declared clean and able to rejoin society. Go back to your family. Interact with others. And thereby be fully and truly healed. Body and soul.
But in the end there was only 1 of the 10 who returned and came back to Him in whom is life. (Luke 17:15) And he was a foreigner, a Samaritan. (Luke 17:16-17) To which Jesus says, “Not only has your faith healed you, but your faith has saved you. (Luke 17:19–the word translated as “healed” is the verb “saved”) Now clearly it was Jesus who healed him. But faith which is granted by the promise of Jesus (Gal. 3:22)—for faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17). faith is therefore connected to Jesus. It seeks out Jesus. It longs for Jesus. It wants to be where He is. (Luke 17:15) So while today is about saving power of Jesus, even power over the physical world—power to save you both body and soul. Today is also about the body and the soul. Or you might say: life in the spirit vs. life in the flesh. (Gal. 5:16)
For once you have salvation, you’ve got years ahead of you yet on earth. And as Psalm 119 told us today, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your Word.” (Ps. 119:9) So dear friends, you’ve all got salvation. You’ve received it freely from Jesus when He washed you in Holy Baptism, cleansing you from what estranged you from God your Father. You are no longer a leper in Kingdom of God. But are now adopted in Christ Jesus; grafted into Jesus; a part of the body of Christ. Which means you are a Son of God the Father. You have been cleansed.
But you live in a world which is not clean. A world which is sullied and defiled. And simply by living here you get splattered by muck and mire of life here below. And think about this: there is a reason that the Gospels always call demons not just evil spirits but unclean spirits. It's an important question, therefore, how can a young man—or anyone—keep his way pure? (Ps. 119:9) For he works of flesh are clear. (Gal. 5:19-21) They defile you so that anyone doing them will not inherit the kingdom of God. For they violate your conscience. They make you feel miserable.Guilty. Ashamed. And guess what? Where there is impurity, what hangs around? Impure spirits. Where there is defilement of that which is pure impure spirits delight. For they feed on on impurity. Just like vultures don’t hang around living, vigorous creatures, but gather where there is death and defilement. And when there is impurity in your life there will be impure spirits that will lurk around and attack you. For Satan doesn’t just want to make you sin—though he delights in that. He wants to make you sin and then attack you in your conscience in order to convince you there is no way you with your issues, with your impurities, with the things that have been done to you or that you have done in rage, could possibly be clean. Could possibly be Christian! That’s when Satan has you. When he causes you to doubt that you who have been cleansed in Holy Baptism. Or that can ever be cleansed again. That’s time of trial we pray we are not lead into (Luke 11:4) when we pray, “lead us not into temptation.” It’s the time when Satan tests you, when he tries your faith, when he tempts you into unbelief, and seeks to destroy your faith. He does it not merely by sin, which has already been paid for by Jesus on the cross, but by impurity. By defilement not only of sin, but of your conscience.
But guess what? How can a young man keep his way pure? How can you be pure? By guarding your way with the Word of the Lord. (Ps. 119:9) Which has a variety of implications. First, how does the word guard your life? Your walk? Not your salvation. For that is yours freely in Christ. In Baptism. But how do you guard the precious deposit of the Spirit given in your baptism? (Eph. 1:13-14; 2 Cor. 1:22) With the Word of the Lord. Which means the Word of the Lord safeguards your way. So when you are defiled, or feel impure, or guilty turn to the Lord in prayer, asking for forgiveness of your sins. Just as you do every day in the Lord’s Prayer. But if the defilement lingers, and continues to bother you, then go to your pastor to confess that sin privately before the pastor. (Small Catechism: Confession, “What sins should we confess?” http://catechism.cph.org/en/confession.html) So that you might receive absolution. Which is the purifying forgiveness and cleansing of that defiling sin from pastor as from God Himself. (Small Catechism: Confession, “What is Confession?” http://catechism.cph.org/en/confession.html)
Moreover, live from the Word of God. Pray daily as Psalm 119 says, that we not stray from the Lord’s commandments and precepts. (Ps. 119:10) For in them is the way of purity. And having been purified in Baptism, and cleansed again in Absolution, fill your heart with the Word of God (Ps. 119:11-12, 15, 16) so that you abound in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs. (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19; Ps. 119:13) Which is to say, do what ever you have to do in order that your heart, your mind, your thoughts be filled with the Word of God in which is Holy Spirit of God. (Whether that be singing song or hymns, or chanting the psalms as I do, or listening to the Bible online, or reading it yourself.) For thats what it means to be “in the Spirit” (Rev. 1:10) to be meditating on the word of God so that God’s Spirit opens your mouth to speak of Jesus. (Ps. 119:13; 51:15) Indeed, that’s why you come here. For here not only is the Word of God shoved into your ears, but here it is poured down your throat, it is washed over you in the waters of Bap, and placed on as a helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, and shield of faith when the pastor blesses you and forgives sins.
This Divine Service in which you sit is God’s Divine Service which He renders to you. Where He blesses you with His name, with faith, with salvation, cleansing you of that which defiles you. Renewing you again day by day, and growing the fruits of His Spirit in your life. Keeping you unto the day of Jesus Christ when He returns again to take you to His eternal home.
So until that day with the Psalmist we pray, “Blessed are you, O Lord, for you teach me your statutes, His righteous actions to save me.” (Ps. 119:12)
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.